Wat Ar U Endo? Why Liverpool opted to sign relatively unknown Japanese international

Wataru Endo signed for Liverpool in the summer transfer window | X@LIverpoolFC

PREMIER LEAGUE Wat Ar U Endo? Why Liverpool opted to sign relatively unknown Japanese international

Mark Kinyanjui 16:30 - 18.08.2023

Liverpool opted to sign Japan captain Wataru Endo much to the surprise of alot of fans. Here are the reasons why.

Liverpool have completed the signing of Wataru Endo from VFB Sturrgat for 19 million pounds after missing out Moises Caicedo and Romeo Lavia to Chelsea.

The 30-year-old Japanese international was entering the final 12 months of his contract, but Liverpool’s interest this week appeared from left field as their attempts to address their defensive midfield hole continue.

Endo has been greeted to English football with headlines like “Wat Ar U, Endo?” , epitomizing his relatively-unknown status in the country.

However, the club have revealed why they opted to sign the Japanese midfielder after selling Jordan Henderson and Fabinho to Saudi Arabian clubs this summer.

The midfielder is not one of the exciting young prospects Liverpool have been linked with all summer like Lavia, Caicedo, Bayern Munich’s Ryan Gravenberch and Nice’s Khephren Thuram. Endo is at the other end of the scale: an established, experienced operator.

According to The Athletic, Missing out on Caicedo and Lavia made Liverpool reassess the profile they were looking at. The midfield average age has dropped significantly with only Thiago (32) aged over 24. Endo’s experience is seen as a real asset after the loss of Fabinho, Jordan Henderson and James Milner.

The Anfield club might have lost their “lighthouse” and “Dyson” — two of the nicknames given to Fabinho — but his replacement arrives with plenty of his own: “soldier”, “warrior”, “heartbeat” and “bodyguard”.

Endo can operate as a central midfielder and a defensive midfielder and split his time between those roles last season. He has previously filled in at centre-back, but only on a handful of occasions so is unlikely to be an alternative option there unless absolutely necessary. He is perhaps best described as a defensive No 8.

Endo is known as an incredibly dedicated professional. After long trips on international duty, he arrives back at the training ground and heads straight for the gym.

Availability and reliability have been key characteristics in Liverpool’s summer recruitment. Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai both have good fitness records and Endo does too. In the past three seasons, he has missed only three games, playing 99 out of a possible 102 (the reasons for his absences: suspension, Covid-19 and concussion.) He looks after himself and his body so is a reliable presence.

He is invariably the one opposition players and coaches rave about after games against Stuttgart. While sad to see him depart, the German side have long accepted he was a level above them and had braced themselves for an approach from a bigger club. It has been Endo’s dream to play in the Premier League.

Leadership has been a topic of discussion this summer after the departures of captain Jordan Henderson and vice-captain James Milner. Others needed to step up internally, but Endo arrives having captained Stuttgart and he wears the armband for Japan.

Shy and humble, he is a quiet leader. He might not say a lot but when he speaks it carries a lot of weight. Endo speaks good English and will add an authority and organisation to a midfield that still needs reconnecting to function at its best level.

When it comes to the numbers Wataru is bringing to Liverpool, they suggest promising signs ahead.

Since the start of the 2020-21 Bundesliga season, Endo ranks first for possession won in the defensive third (254), most aerial duels won (219), most clearances (175) and most headed clearances (105). He ranks second for possession won in the middle third (404) and most tackles (208).

It should be noted that playing for Stuttgart, a bottom-half side in the Bundesliga, necessarily requires more defending. What the data shows is that he can do it.

In the deeper role, Endo regularly looks to progress the ball through passing (progressive passing; 69 out of 99) or carrying it forward (carry and dribble volume (58 out of 99) with dynamism and energy to build attacks from deep. Since the start of 2020-21, he ranks second in the Bundesliga for most touches (6,511) and passes completed (3,940).

Despite his withdrawn role, Endo still offers an attacking threat. His impressive xG from ball progression (81 out of 99) and xG from shot creation (86 out of 99) highlights his ability to get the ball into dangerous areas and create shooting opportunities.

Only time will tell if it is the correct decision. Endo might prove to be an astute addition who can plug the gaping hole in Liverpool’s squad.

Whether he will make a sufficient impact to make Liverpool title contenders is difficult to judge, but he at least provides a safety blanket if the club are unable to get any other complementary targets over the line.